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Wild animals under english law


The following report aims to identify in law the issues of; wild animals, attachment of certain effects and the discovery of an item of another’s property.

  1. Wild Animals

Under English law, wild animals and birds cannot be the subject of absolute ownership. This is in accordance with Blades v Higgs. Following this precedent, prima facie, the rabbits do not belong to either Boris or Victoria and therefore neither can claim any such right upon them.

The Lord Chancellor explains further the principle of ratione soli which states that the owner of the property has the Common Law right to kill wild animals on their land as the animal becomes the absolute property of the owner of the soil.

Ratione soli remains if the hunter “can keep them [the wild animals] in sight” and “has the power to pursue them”.

Lord Westbury in Blades v Higgs refers to Sutton v Moody where Lord Chief Justice Holt proposed the idea that “If A starts a hare in the ground of B, and hunts it and kills it there, the property continues all the while in B… the owner of the soil”. Using this principle, if the rabbits escape to another’s land, this owner of the soil possesses the ‘qualified property’ in them. Boris is however allowed to coax / lure the animals back to his property.

Based on the precedent of Sutton v Moody and Kearry v Pattinson Victoria has the better claim to the rabbits that Boris has shot in her garden. On the presumption that no restrictive covenant was imposed, she is under no obligation to give Boris the carcasses when he demands them.

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